The Secret Lives of Lobsters

Last week my daughter & I visited the Gulf of Maine Research Institute, a nonprofit marine science center located right in the heart of Portland’s harbor.

My daughter’s 5th grade class had been invited to participate in a special program called Lobster: Untold Tales and I was tagging along as a chaperone.  I’d never thought much about lobsters before – apart from how tasty they are – so I was interested to see what I’d been missing. After being briefed in the lobby, we were led into a state-of-the-art interactive exhibit room for our LabVenture!

As someone easily impressed by things like salt free food and wild turkeys, you can imagine how taken in I was by the (nearly) $2.5 million facility above.  With its gigantic screens and its dark lighting and shiny metal kiosks, I felt like I’d stepped right onto the set of CSI!  But instead of being ordered to stand behind the camera, the LabVenture! program is all ACTION!  Not only were we set loose in the “lab” to investigate, but we got to (hold your breath) TOUCH LOBSTERS.

OOOOOoooohhhh!!!!!  Just like the ones at the supermarket!  But now we were studying rather than steaming them.  As an adult chaperone, I volunteered to be in charge of the lobsters.  You know I did.  When they asked who’d be willing to dole them out, my hand shot into the air quicker than melting butter. I felt like a QUEEN, handling Fred, Tony and Roy. I wore gloves too, in case you were wondering. And their claws were banded so no boo-boos on MY watch. 🙂

There’s Team Osprey above, studying their lobster. My older daughter appears to be enjoying herself. I am so glad. The students were divided into groups of three or four and given names, such as Team Seastar, Team Blue Whale and Team Puffin.  The teams rotated around the room,

taking turns at all four high tech kiosk stations, where they applied the scientific method

  • QUESTION
  • OBSERVATION
  • HYPOTHESIS
  • INVESTIGATION
  • CONCLUSION
  • SHARE YOUR RESULTS

to problems such as whether trap limits for lobstermen will result in larger or smaller catches and/or profits.  IMPORTANT STUFF.  Not only are lobsters the tastiest, meatiest, liveliest crustaceans around, but for many of my neighbors here in Maine lobsters are in fact their LIVELIHOOD.  As in fishing!  But being a lobsterman isn’t all oil pants & glamour. It’s a hard job that entails long hours and whopping boatloads of stinky fish.  All of which has to be paid for out of pocket.  The GMRI is dedicated to helping those hard working fishermen by studying the effects of things like quotas on real life outcomes.  And having 5th and 6th graders do all the work.  Just kidding!  Adult scientists conduct the real research, helping to ensure the future not only of Maine’s fishing industry, but of the animals and environment too.  In this case, the lovable lobstah!

And those lobsters are wily! Whereas other animals have been over-hunted to the brink of extinction, the genius lobsters manage to evade capture time and time again.  We learned all about how lobster traps work and why 3 different types of lobsters are returned to the sea after being caught, rather than being consumed. (Females with eggs, the BIG GUYS, and V-tagged females – those who were previously caught with eggs and then had a V cut out of their tail before being returned to the sea — all 3 helping to replenish the lobster stock.)

Additionally, we learned all about how lobsters molt their shells in order to grow, leaving them soft and vulnerable for a period of time.  How lobsters spend much of their lives hiding under rocks, avoiding predators.  How as tiny little lobster babies they eat plankton, and as they grow their tastes change (much like humans) and they switch to solid foods, such as sea snails, mollusks and fish.  Such fascinating stuff!  I know the next time I see a rusty lobster trap washed up on the beach, I’ll take a moment to reflect on our wonderful field trip and all the lobster knowledge I acquired, rather than just giving it a kick for fun and letting the dog have a sniff.  And now perhaps you will too.

As a parting shot, I leave you with the GMRI’s charter bus, truly the classiest ride EVER.  Forget the greyhound.  WHO wouldn’t want to ride the LOBSTAH?!

PS: If you’ve forgotten all about it, PLEASE take a moment to vote for me!!!

CLICK HERE TO VOTE DAILY FOR THE DAILY DISH.

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27 thoughts on “The Secret Lives of Lobsters

  1. Looks like a great trip! You really rocked those lobsters, handing them out, didnt ya? (Cue B52’s now….)

    seriously, what a great mom to go chaperone like that. And speaking of rock, that bus looks like a rock start tour bus…..sweet!

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    1. I missed my ride on the bus and was BUMMED! I met the class there — but I heard the bus even has a BATHROOM. The essence of civility when you can relieve yourself on a lobster. YEP! I’m on a ROLL. A lobstah roll! hahahah

      (can you tell i don’t get out too much?) 😉

      XO

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  2. Still being a relative seafood newbie, it reeeeeeeally bothers me when Kamran refers to lobster as “deep-sea insects” right before I bite into one. But studying them would be right up my alley! I still think “Deadliest Catch” is more interesting than “Lobstermen”, though. Sorry.

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  3. Cool! I love museum trips like this, how fun. And I love that close-up of the lobster, the third from the bottom.

    Is it crazy that I’ve never tasted one? Well, I did have a bite of someone’s lobster tail once, but it tasted like butter to me.

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    1. GG __ YOU MUST GO GET A LOBSTER – NOW!!!! On your special diet you need to eat as much salt as possible, right?! You must now consume lobster on a weekly – nay DAILY basis!! Being salt restricted, I’m not allowed to indulge my longing often. You should do it FOR ME! 🙂

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  4. Glad you reminded me to vote: I’d forgotten. I forget most things. I don’t eat lobsters – ever since a particularly brave one squared up to me on a Spanish beach many years ago. I thought ‘be on your way little fellow’, and haven’t eaten one since. Of course if I were a castaway I might feel differently…

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    1. Hah! Funny how getting to know one “up close & personal” changed you. Strangely that hasn’t happened to me! Fred, Tony and Roy impressed me with their mellow charms, but afterward I still longed to steam, crack and dip them in butter. I must be a SAVAGE.

      PS: Thanks SO MUCH for voting, Tooty!!!

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  5. Looks like a very interesting place! When I was in school our field trips weren’t nearly this exciting (I think we toured a vacant parking lot once – or twice). Also, I spend most of my time hiding under a rock, too – what a coincidence! 🙂

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    1. Yeah it’s amazing how good these kids have it today. Back when I was a kid, and we visited the Pearl S. Buck House, I do NOT recall there being any video kiosks and club lighting.. Shucks.

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    1. Oh Art! Fred, Tony and Roy are very displeased w/ your comment! (LOL)

      I honestly don’t know what the most humane killing method is — not being a lobster myself, but people seem to advocate first chilling, then piercing or striking. Personally if you stuck me in a freezer, then stabbed me in the back of the neck I’m not sure I’d feel the same way..

      My husband brought home a ginormous lobster for me one year when he went camping at Acadia Nat’l Park (near Bar Harbor, ME). I was so traumatized by the thought of having to kill him I cried. My husband did the dirty work. He was delicious. (poor thing)

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  6. What an exciting looking place. I love the LobstAH mural on the back of the bus. Did you get to taste test??? Great photos & I agree it is rather CSI-ish looking.

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